Chinese reign supreme

WITHOUT doubt, the supremacy of the Chinese table tennis players in Asia will remain unchallenged in the near future.

RAKESH RAO

WITHOUT doubt, the supremacy of the Chinese table tennis players in Asia will remain unchallenged in the near future. The `Great Chinese Wall', looked impenetrable when some established and some not-so-established young talents displayed their speed, skill, strength and stamina in the 10th Asian junior table tennis championship at New Delhi's Talkatora Indoor Stadium.

The Chinese boys and girls who won the team titles. — Pic. R. V. MOORTHY-

China won both team titles and swept all five in the open events as well. It did not bother to send an entry in the cadet group and that helped India and Japan collect a gold each in the section that did not really count much. India also had a bronze each from the cadet boys' and cadet girls' sections.

Ma Long, ranked joint eighth in the world junior rankings pulled off the final against compatriot Zhang Jike in the boys' final that provided somewhat of an anti-climatic end to the proceedings. Jike, seen by experts all around the world as a future world champion, produced brilliant stuff all through but was mysteriously off-colour against Long.

In the women's section, China packed a surprise. The unranked trio of Feng Yalan, Ding Ning and Liu Shiwen almost owned the arena as they not only helped China retain the girls team title but also reached the singles semifinals. On the way, these girls made a mockery of some of the players from Chinese Taipei, Korea and Japan. What more, Cai Sai, the only member of the Chinese girls team which had a junior world ranking, a distant 63, was not missed in the team's title-defence.

Feng Yalan (left) and Ma Long, the girls' and boys' champions in the individual events. -- Pic. PTI-

It did not come as a surprise when, barring the girls doubles final, Chinese players monopolised all title-clashes. It spoke volumes of the well-known systematic talent search that exists in China.

Overall, it was a fine field with five of the top-nine boys from the world junior making it to Delhi. Korea's Cho Eon Rae, the world junior finalist, was expected to pose a challenge to the Chinese but he came a cropper in the team finals as well as in the singles semifinal against Zhang Jike. Even Chinese Taipei's Wu Chih-Chi, who had stopped Jike in the world team finals, failed to make an impression.

Jiang Tianyi plays a forehand jab as team-mate Zhang Jike looks on during the boys' doubles final which they won. — Pic. PTI-

One of the better matches of the competition saw Ma Long stop Cho Eon Rae 11-8, 7-11, 11-7, 6-11, 12-10 after rallying from 9-10 in the decider of the opening rubber of the team final. Similarly, Feng Yalan, the eventual girls champion had beaten Korea's Park Seong Hye 11-6, 11-7, 11-1, 8-11, 14-16, 4-11, 17-15 in a first-round thriller and thereafter, never looked back.

Barring these two results, almost all matches involving the Chinese produced one-sided encounters. When the Chinese stood on both sides of the table, there were times when there was no doubt that some matches were made to go the distance.

In the team championship, one of the semifinals in both sections, involving Korea, was decided in the fifth rubber.

Liu Shiwen and Cai Sai, the winners of the girls' doubles. -- Pic. R. V. MOORTHY-

The Korean men, the defending champions, needed five matches to down the challengers from Japan while the Korean women took an equally long route to get past their counterparts from Chinese Taipei.

For the host, it was a repeat finish of the last championship in Hyderabad. India retained the fifth spot in both sections. If India is way behind the first four teams in the continent, it must also be remembered, that at this level, the remaining nations in the region are also well behind India.

Boys' singles: Final: Ma Long (Chn) bt Zhang Jike (Chn) 11-8, 11-8, 11-5, 3-11, 11-8; Semifinals: Jike bt Cho Eon Rae (Kor) 4-11, 11-7, 11-4, 11-8, 11-6; Ma Long bt Seiya Kishikawa (Jpn) 11-9, 11-7, 11-5, 11-7.

Boys' doubles: Final: Zhang Jike and Jiang Tianyi (Chn) bt Ma Long and Lin Chen (Chn) 11-9, 11-1, 9-11, 9-11, 11-8; Semifinals: Jike and Tianyi bt Wu Chih-Chi and Sun Wen Wei (Tpe) 7-11, 11-4, 11-5, 15-13.

Girls' singles: Final: Feng Yalan (Chn) bt Ding Ning (Chn) 11-7, 13-11, 9-11, 11-5, 5-11, 11-4; Semifinals: Ding Ning bt Liu Shiwen (Chn) 11-9, 7-11, 11-8, 11-8, 14-12; Feng Yalan bt Choi Moon Young (Kor) 11-9, 11-8, 11-7, 11-4.

Girls' doubles: Final: Liu Shiwen and Cai Sai (Chn) bt Jee Min Hyung and Park Seong Hye (Kor) 17-15, 12-10, 11-5; Semifinals: Hyung and Hye bt Lee I-Chen and Shu Hui Sun (Tpe) 11-9, 11-3, 11-13, 6-11, 11-5; Liu and Sai bt Seo Myeong Eun and Choi Moon Young (Kor) 11-5, 11-5, 11-3.

Mixed doubles: Final: Ma Long and Cai Sai (Chn) bt Zhang Jike and Ding Ning (Chn) 11-8, 11-8, 9-11, 11-6; Semifinals: Long and Sai bt Tang Yushi and Hou Xiaoxu (Chn) 11-8, 11-2, 11-8; Zhang and Ning bt Wu Chih-Chi and Lee I-Chen (Tpe) 11-6, 7-11, 11-1, 8-11, 11-4.

Cadet boys: Final: Soumyajit Sarkar (Ind) bt Kim Gang Woog (Kor) 9-11, 14-12, 7-11, 12-10, 12-10; Semifinals: Kim Gang Woog bt Chan Yon Hang (Hkg) 12-10, 11-9, 11-6; Sarkar bt Sanil Shetty 11-2, 11-2, 11-9.

Cadet girls: Final: Misako Wakamiya (Jap) bt Jin Dal Rae (Kor) 11-7, 11-5, 10-12, 8-11, 11-9; Semifinals: Misako bt Divya Deshpande 13-15, 11-9, 11-4, 11-9; Jin Dal Rae bt Ishara Madurangi (Sri) 8-11, 11-7, 11-9, 11-5.

Team championship:

Boys: Final: China beat Korea 3-0 (Ma Long bt Cho Eon Rae 11-8, 7-11, 11-7, 6-11, 12-10; Zhang Jike bt Yeo In Ho 11-9, 12-10, 11-4; Jiang Tien Yi bt Hang Dong Hoon 11-2, 11-5, 11-7).

Semifinals: China beat Chinese Taipei 3-0 (Ma Long bt Wu Chih-Chi 11-13, 11-8, 11-1, 11-7; Zhang Jike bt Chou Tang Yu 11-5, 8-11, 11-2, 11-5; Jiang Tien Yi bt Huang Sheng 11-4, 11-5, 11-3).

Korea beat Japan 3-2 (Cho Eon Rae lost to Jun Mizutni 8-11, 9-11, 11-8, 8-11; Kang Dong Hoon lost to Seiya Kishikawa 6-11, 9-11, 11-9, 7-11; Yeo In Ho bt Kazumosa Ikeda 5-11, 11-8, 11-4, 11-4; Cho Eon Rae bt Kishikawa 11-4, 11-8, 4-11, 11-6; Kang Ding Hoon bt Mizutni 5-11, 11-7, 11-7, 5-11, 11-6).

Standing: 1. China, 2. Korea, 3. Chinese Taipei and Japan, 5. India, 6. Hong Kong, 7. Kuwait, 8. Sri Lanka, 9. Indonesia, 10. Iran, 11. Macau.

Girls: Final: China beat Korea 3-0 (Li Shiwen bt Jee Min Hyung 4-11, 11-5, 4-11, 11-7, 11-8; Ding Ning bt Seo Myeong Eun 11-5, 7-11, 11-6, 11-4; Feng Yalan bt Choi Moon Young 8-11, 11-7, 11-9, 11-9).

Semifinals: China beat Japan 3-1 (Feng Yalan bt Nozomi Hasama 11-8, 8-11, 11-5, 13-11; Liu Shiwen bt Moemi Terui 5-11, 11-6, 12-10, 11-7; Ding Ping lost to Yuka Ishigaki 8-11, 8-11, 10-12; Ling bt Nozomi 11-8, 11-4, 11-6).

Korea beat Chinese Taipei 3-2 (Seo Myeong Sun bt Shi Hui Tsh 11-3, 7-11, 11-4, 12-10; Jee Min Hyung bt Lee I-Chen 11-6, 11-7, 8-11, 14-12; Park Seo Hee lost to Kou Su Hua 8-11, 8-11, 11-8, 11-9, 8-11; Seo Myeong Sun lost to Lee I-Chen 11-7, 7-11, 7-11, 11-13; Jee Min Hyung bt Shu Hui Tsu 11-8, 11-9, 11-9).

Standing: 1. China, 2. Korea, 3. Chinese Taipei and Japan, 5. India, 6. Sri Lanka, 7. Hong Kong, 8. Thailand, 9. Indonesia, 10. Iran, 11. Macau.

Medals Tally (read as gold-silver-bronze): China 7-4-3; India 1-0-2; Japan 1-0-2; Korea 0-5-3; Chinese Taipei 0-0-6; Sri Lanka 0-0-1; Hong Kong 0-0-1.